"Boardwalk Empire," Season 2, Episode 2

Season 2, Episode 2


“Boardwalk Empire” isn’t HBO’s first pricey period piece drama about a lawless American city. The eponymous mining town of “Deadwood” wallowed in vice even more shamelessly than “Boardwalk Empire’s” Atlantic City, and won a more devoted following of critics and fans, despite the ornate density of the dialogue. I draw the comparison because “Deadwood’s” characters seemed so propelled by their needs and wants, from villains like Al Swearengen, Cy Tolliver and George Hearst to the flawed heroes Calamity Jane and Sheriff Seth Bullock. Where rapacious appetites drove the “Deadwood” cast, their “Boardwalk Empire” counterparts are more like, “Yeah, I could eat,” with Nucky and Jimmy and particularly seldom seeming as passionate.

Margaret provides an exception, however, and in the episode “Ourselves Alone” proves to be a surprisingly effective player at the game of thrones (to switch HBO show references in mid-review). The compelling episode begins by conveying Margaret’s new social station as she now has three female servants who greet her in the morning with “Good morning, ma’am.” She reads the headline, “Treasurer Thompson Arrested,” but scarcely bats an eye and asks “What’s the prediction? … For the weather?” Her kids give her a Valentine and she makes plans for the night’s dinner, but she’s not just going to be stiff-upper-lipping it.

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